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Meet the Pros
SCBWI France publishes interviews both in the SCBWI France Expression newsletter and on-line. These interviews offer an insider's view of the international children’s publishing market.
Emma Matthewson
Commissioning Editor, Bloomsbury Publishing, UK
Erzsi Deak and Sandra Guy interviewed Emma Matthewson for Kidbookpros. Emma will be speaking at the SCBWI France Spring Conference, 12-13 May 2001. She will also be on the jury for the Story Contest and will review manuscripts by appointment. For more information about the conference, please contact Melissa Buron at:

1. SCBWI: Please tell us a little about your background.
Emma Matthewson: I have worked in children's publishing all my working life! I started as Editorial Secretary at Blackie Children's Books, a wonderful independent publishing company, then moved to Penguin for five years, and then to Bloomsbury –– another wonderful independent publishing company! -- where I am now Commissioning Editor.

2. SCBWI: What are some recent titles that you are particularly proud of having edited (and why)?
Emma: Aside from Harry Potter, I would also say a novel called FACE by Benjamin Zephaniah. I had worked with Benjamin on his poetry and we had talked for a long while about him writing a novel. I was really delighted how he took like a duck to water to this very different writing discipline. And also a series of books called 'Megan' by Mary Hooper, which takes as its subject teenage pregnancy, a subject I feel is incredibly important.

3. SCBWI: What is/was the most inspiring children's book you've ever read?
Emma: Lord of the Rings. I read it five times!

4. SCBWI: What is the book you wished you published?
Emma: SKELLIG by David Almond. It has huge resonance.

5. SCBWI: What are the three books you are proudest of publishing and why?
Emma: (See question two.) We have also published at Bloomsbury two amazing books called WITCH CHILD by Celia Rees, a marvelously powerful book about the witch hunting that went on in the UK and the US in the 17C. Also HOLES by Louis Sachar, a book that is very unusual, with a very unique voice.

6. SCBWI: What are the features that grab your attention in a manuscript for children aged 2-7?
Emma: That is wide age-range to consider. But for the younger end I would say the read-aloud ability. Generally, though, it is whether there is something about the story or the words that really stays with you afterwards -- whether it be laughter or thoughtfulness!

7. SCBWI: What do you perceive as the role of books in the lives of contemporary children?
Emma: I see it working in two ways: either as an escape from real life into an imaginary world, or as a way of more directly working out what real life is about.

8. SCBWI: How would you define the "voice" of Bloomsbury –– what books best express this?
Emma: You have just used the word I would use - 'voice'. Each writer we take on we feel has that strong voice ––whether saying something important in a new and different way, or has found something completely original to write about!

9. SCBWI: Does Bloomsbury have a profile of writers it's interested in publishing?
Emma: We really are quite eclectic in what we publish –– from gritty realism to more fantastical books.

10. SCBWI: How many of each kind of book do you publish a year? Picture books, concept books, chapter books, middle grade, young adult (YA/teen fiction), etc.
Emma: We don't have a fixed number of different types of books that we need to achieve, but as a very rough rule of thumb about 20 new picture books, 15 new teen/YA, 10 middle grade fiction, 2-3 poetry.

11. SCBWI: Is there an average print run at Bloomsbury?
Emma: Not really!

12. SCBWI: Is there such a person as an ideal Bloomsbury reader (outside of Harry Potter fans)?
Emma: Somebody who likes interesting, challenging books!

14. SCBWI: Is Bloomsbury interested in collections of short stories?
Emma: The only short stories we have published have been as folk tales and that is quite a specific market.

15. SCBWI: What is your definition of the dividing line between middle-grade and YA fiction?
Emma: Often I find it is purely content-driven. If there is more sensitive material, such as scenes with drugs, then it has to become YA. Both areas of fiction though should be challenging to the reader.

16. SCBWI: What are the features of a well-written MG novel that catch your eye? For a YA?
Emma: For me, for both age-ranges the style should be natural. Both should really make you want to turn the page.

17. SCBWI: What types of books are you looking for –– literary fiction, sci-fi, social realism, magical realism, etc., etc.)?
Emma: We don't do much science-fiction. We do do a lot of literary fiction, social realism and magical realism. We are also looking at novels with more historical content.

18. SCBWI: What do you see as the current trends at the moment?
Emma: Books coming out in series again! Longer, more demanding fiction, like for example the revival of Diana Wynne Jones' Chrestomanci series. Historical novels: for example CORAM BOY, winner of this year's UK Whitbread Children's Prize.

19. SCBWI: Are you accepting unsolicited manuscripts?
Emma: Yes, but never by e-mail please! And, if a novel, just the first three chapters and a synopsis. Plus a stamped addressed envelope, please.

20. SCBWI: From your life as an editor, what do you see as some of the common mistakes authors could AVOID making when submitting?
Emma: Always try to research the publishing market before sending out your material. Ring up first and ask for the publisher's guidelines to make sure you aren't wasting your time sending to completely the wrong publisher.

21. SCBWI: Anything else you'd like to add?
Emma: I am very much looking forward to the conference!

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